Senator Jillian van Turnhout welcomes news of EC funding for Ireland’s 116 000 Missing Children Hotline

Senator Jillian van Turnhout welcomes news of EC funding for Ireland’s 116 000 Missing Children Hotline

Press Statement, 25 May 2012

***Immediate Release***

“It is more than seven months since I led a motion in the Seanad calling on the Government to ensure the implementation of the harmonised European 116 000 Missing Children Hotline in Ireland. The 116 000 number was allocated to the ISPCC on 1 February 2012.

Today, on International Missing Children’s Day, I warmly welcome the announcement that the ISPCC has received €150,000 in an operating grant from the European Commission under the Daphne III Programme. This is vital funding, which will help ensure that Ireland’s 116 000 Missing Children Hotline is up and running in the coming months.

I now urge the Government to be forthcoming both with the additional funding ISPCC requires to get the Hotline working and with the on-going funding that will need to ensure an efficient and effective service into the future.

The Missing Children Hotline in Ireland will increase to 17 the number of EU Member States operating the service nationally. The Hotline will take calls and offer support to anyone concerned about a missing child, including parents and children themselves. It will deal with the different types of child disappearance, including runaways, parental abductions, missing unaccompanied migrant minors, criminal abductions, lost, injured or otherwise missing children. It will also be an important additional resource to the Gardaí, who are the lead agency dealing with missing children.

I warmly welcomed the decision to assign the 116 000 number to the ISPCC, which has a long and proud history of service delivery and advocacy on behalf of children in Ireland. The ISPCC is the only organisation in Ireland currently providing 24 hour support to children and young people through its Childline service. Childline received 800,000 calls in 2011. Unlike its UK and Northern Ireland counterparts, Childline Ireland receives no Government support. Insufficient funding means that 38% of calls, representing the voices of 800 children, go unanswered each day.

I have called on the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, to come into the Seanad to discuss how better her Department and the Government can support the exceptional work done by Childline to ensure an Ireland where all children are heard and valued.


Notes to editor:
– The motion was presented to the Seanad on 12 October 2011.
– On the 15th of February 2007, the European Commission reserved the 116 000 phone number in all EU member states as a common number for emergency action whenever a child goes missing.
– General information on the 116 000 Missing Children Hotline can be found at:
– Speech by Senator van Turnhout on Missing Children Hotline 12 October 2011

Statement by Senator Jillian van Turnhout, Independent, on “Why I am voting Yes on 31 May”

Statement by Senator Jillian van Turnhout, Independent,


“Why I am voting Yes on 31 May”

“I wish I could stand before you today and say that the Fiscal Stability Treaty is the answer to our economic woes, but that is simply not the case. A Yes vote will not deliver us an immediate return to prosperity any more than a No vote will give us an instantaneous end to austerity.

Normally when we approach a Referendum a No vote means maintaining the status quo whilst a Yes vote means something will change. Unusually in the case of the Referendum on the Fiscal Stability Treaty I believe the opposite is true. If we vote Yes, I don’t see huge changes in our economic policies which are already set. However, if we vote No, then there will be consequences such as the removal of the safety net of our access to the European Stability Mechanism funding, or indeed facing the deficit crisis alone.

After thinking long and hard about which option would serve this country best, it appears to me that a Yes vote is the only logical conclusion, as even if we were to reject the treaty we will still remain legally bound to most of the fiscal discipline measures it entails under the Stability and Growth Pact and the Six Pact reforms. In essence the Treaty is merely a restatement of our commitments, only now other countries will also be expected to fulfill these commitments.

Thus, the real economic battle ground is not the Treaty, it is to ensure that the Government realises its commitment to growth. I believe to date the Government’s policies have been set to remedy and redress our economic woes. I have supported the Government on most of its policies but not all. We now need to focus on Recovery and Growth.

There is no doubt that we are living through a crucial time in the history of the European Union. In an EU of 27, we have 27 voices, each trying to articulate a point of view. If you do not speak, are not audible, are not coherent, you will be forgotten. To influence decisions, we must engage.

We need to make our mark. We need to increase public debate, to reinforce citizens and civil society’s involvement in the shaping of EU policy. We need to be able to stand up and play our role in the EU. We need to be a critical friend whilst ensuring that we are not airbrushed from the European landscape.

To sum it up! I will be voting Yes on 31 May because…When the music stops Ireland shouldn’t be without a seat at the table.”


Order of Business, 22 May 2012

Yesterday the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children published the Childline annual statistics for 2011. The importance of listening to children cannot be overstated and in the past 23 years Childline has been providing this invaluable service for children. It is a service which is trusted and recognised by young people. In 2011, for example, it received more than 800,000 calls, including 54,000 relating to some level of emotional abuse and 11,000 relating to bullying. Childline not only listens to and supports young people but it also saves lives. Yesterday I heard a prime example of this from the ISPCC spokesperson who relayed the story of a teenage girl who had taken an overdose, contacted Childline and shared with the operator her feelings of worthlessness and how everyone was right that she was a waste of space. During the 45 minute call she eventually told the Childline operator where she lived and an ambulance was sent to take her to hospital and save her life. I shudder to think what would have happened if her telephone call was one of the 800 telephone calls that go unanswered each day because of insufficient funding and resources. Childline in the United Kingdom, which is run by the NSPCC, receives £11 million for its continued development.

The Department of Education in Northern Ireland makes contributions to Childline Northern Ireland. In Ireland Childline operates without Government funding or support. In fact, it raises €4 million thanks to the generosity of the public and Eircom. The lack of funding seriously undermines the capacity of the service to meet the needs of children. Some 38% of calls go unanswered. These are the voices of 800 vulnerable children and young people which are not heard each day.

Will the Leader invite the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to the House to discuss how the Department and the Government can better support the exceptional work being done by Childline to ensure all children are heard and valued?

Email Newsletter – May 2012 – One Year Anniversary

I am writing to you today to mark the one year anniversary of my appointment to Seanad Éireann as a Taoiseach’s Nominee. The first twelve months has been an incredible experience. I often say “every day is a school day”, and this has been especially true in my role as Senator. I’d like to thank the many people within Leinster House, from the Seanad Clerks to my fellow Senators, for making the learning curve manageable.

I have endeavored since the date of my appointment to make my contribution in the Seanad and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children as valuable and constructive as possible.

I am driven by social justice issues and promoting and protecting human rights, particularly of vulnerable and marginalised groups. I hope this is reflected in the areas and issues I engaging in.

As many of you know, the wheels of change turn slowly and so a lot of what I am doing is work in progress. Some of these notable steps in the right direction include securing Government commitment to: make the 116 000 Missing Children Hotline operational; consider criminalising the purchase of sex in Ireland to curb prostitution and trafficking; and to fully consider blocking child abuse material on the internet. I am committed to following these initiatives through to fruition, and I revisit them in the Seanad on a regular basis.

I have spoken on, and submitted amendments to, a number of important Bills including: the Female Genital Mutilation Bill, Withholding Information on Crimes Against Children and Vulnerable Adults Bill, Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill, Oireachtas Inquiries Bill, Judges Remuneration Bill, and the Social Welfare Bill. With respect to the latter, I was particularly disappointed that the Government pressed ahead with the cuts to the One Parent Family Payment. I maintain my position that 7 is too young and I will continue to vocally oppose the changes unless and until affordable and accessible childcare is in place.

On 9 May 2012, along with Senator John Crown and Senator Mark Daly I initiated my first Bill into the Seanad on Protection of Children’s Health from Tobacco Smoke, which has passed the first stage. I plan to initiate more Bills in the future. Until then, a considerable amount of my focus will be dedicated to the upcoming Children’s Rights Referendum.

For your information, I have attached links to a number of my Seanad speeches, which can also be viewed on my YouTube channel

Housing Policy, the Fiscal Treaty, banning of smoking in cars when children are present, International Women’s Day, Rare Diseases, Early Intervention and Child Support Services, Blocking child abuse material online, Foreign Affairs, Electoral Law and Political Funding, Services for People with Disabilities, Ireland’s Human Rights record, St. Patrick’s Institution, Recent Developments in Eurozone and European Council, Social Welfare Legislation, the establishment of a new Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Mortgage Arrears, the Community and Voluntary Sector, the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Plan, Constitutional Amendments, the Irish language, Special Needs Assistants, Missing Children’s Hotline, Child Care and Protection, School Transport, Human Trafficking and Prostitution, Female Genital Mutilation, the National Vetting Bureau, the Cloyne Report, Alcohol Pricing, and Whistleblowing Legislation.

As a final note, I would like to sincerely thank all the NGOs, Civil Society Organisations, Community and Voluntary Organisations and interested members of the public who have shared their concerns and expertise with me along the way. Your contribution to my work has been invaluable. I believe we are moving closer in many areas to achieving our shared goals and I look forward to your continued input and support.

Best Wishes,
Senator Jillian van Turnhout

Symphysiotomy: Statements

16th May 2012

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I also thank my Labour Party colleagues for providing the opportunity to Members of Seanad Éireann to make statements on the scandalous medical malpractice of symphysiotomy, which was performed in Ireland at least 1,500 times between 1944 and 1992. I also extend the warmest of welcomes to the survivors of symphysiotomy who are present today in the Visitors Gallery and elsewhere in Leinster House. I commend the dignity, bravery and honesty they have shown in sharing their personal traumas with Members during a number of Oireachtas briefing and information sessions. I thank them for opening Members’ eyes to the at best utterly inappropriate and at worst barbaric treatment they suffered at the hands of trained medical professionals in Irish hospitals.

I followed the statements on symphysiotomy in the Dáil last March with great interest and I agree with the comment by the Minister, Deputy Reilly, which was echoed today by the Minister of State, that we should be proud that Ireland is recognised internationally as a leader in the field of obstetrics. We also should be proud that with only one maternal death per 100,000 live births, Ireland has one of the lowest maternal mortality ratios in the world. However, as is evident from the statements being made today, Ireland has a far from unblemished record in the area of maternal health care. Between 1920 and as recently as 1992, many women suffered serious maternal morbidities under the care of trained medical practitioners in Irish hospitals. Maternal morbidity is defined as an illness or disability in women caused directly or indirectly by factors relating to pregnancy, childbirth or the post delivery period. The vast majority of maternal morbidities are preventable and as such, their prevalence constitutes a serious violation of women’s fundamental rights to life, liberty and security, as well as to health, dignity and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

In common with many others, I am extremely frustrated by the delay in the publication of the report into the practice of symphysiotomy in Ireland. Extremely serious concerns must be addressed for the survivors to receive the acknowledgement, truth and justice they deserve. Chief among them is the contention by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Ireland, upon which it appears the Department of Health is content to rely, that the practice of symphysiotomy was carried out due to medical necessity and only until consensus regarding caesarean section changed and it was deemed safe. It is my hope that in carrying out a critical appraisal of international reviews of symphysiotomy practice and associated rates in comparable countries in the world, as well as an examination of the Irish experience relative to other countries, this report will refute this contention once and for all.

The Minister, Deputy Reilly, himself acknowledged last March that symphysiotomy continued to be used in Ireland for some time after it had been all but discontinued in other developed countries and continued to be used for a longer period in particular hospitals, most notably in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. Rather than a procedure arising out of medical necessity, the evidence suggests symphysiotomy was the preference of some senior doctors in keeping with their conservative Catholic belief systems, whereby caesarean section had a safe birth limit of up to four children, while symphysiotomy would allow women have an unlimited number of children despite the horrendous cost to their health and well-being.

While the last thing anyone wants is another institutional abuse scandal, if there is one, and I believe there is, it must be met head on. The culture of secrecy, collusion and cover-up that surrounded institutional and clerical child sex abuse cannot be allowed to flourish again now as, otherwise, what has been learned? I cannot help but discern a parallel between the recent calls for Cardinal Brady’s resignation and this issue. Something that was not illegal at a particular time or indeed which was accepted practice within an institution or discipline but which in hindsight is found to be utterly inappropriate and morally wrong, cannot and should not be immune to a contemporary and robust response.

I was disappointed by the limited terms used by the Minister, Deputy Reilly, during the Dáil statements in March in referring to the experience of the survivors. He spoke of pain and distress but it is clear to me, having listened to the women’s personal testimonies, that such descriptions are totally inadequate in the face of the devastating impact symphysiotomy had on their lives and those of their families. In addition to the horrendous physical injuries they suffered as a direct result of the procedure, which sustained and worsened in the absence of appropriate aftercare, the serious emotional and psychological suffering they endure must be acknowledged. The birth of a child — for many of the women affected this was the birth of their first child — should be the most joyful time in a woman’s life. Instead, for the survivors, of whom there are currently a little over 150, the birth of their child was the beginning of a nightmare. This was a nightmare as a result of a medical procedure to which they did not consent, of which they were not informed of after they had it, in respect of which they did not receive medical treatment and aftercare, and the evidence of which suggests was not medically necessary. Shockingly, there are women who, despite having presented to doctors for treatment for various medical ailments over the years, only realised following the RTE “Prime Time” investigation into symphysiotomy in February 2010 that they were survivors. These women still present as survivors in 2011. Sadly, as time passes survivors are dying. We know that at least four survivors have passed away since the Walsh report was commissioned.

The women are the primary victims here. We have heard testimonies from women who could not lift or attend to the needs of their newborn babies due to the pain they were in and of the helplessness, guilt and shame they felt as a result. We heard from those who could no longer play beloved sports, to those who could no longer walk, of how their quality of life was irrevocably altered. We also know that there are secondary victims. They, too, must be acknowledged. One in ten babies died during symphysiotomy births. Children lost the love and nurture of mothers so traumatised by their experiences that they could not bond with their baby and subsequent babies. Likewise, husbands suffered as a result of the effects on their wives.

I note the Minister of State’s comments today and those of the Minister, Deputy Reilly, in March in relation to the provision of medical care to the survivors, which I welcome. However, having also heard from the women, I am concerned that they are having difficulty accessing services. I am particularly concerned about the difficulty some are facing accessing their medical records. Some women have been told there records no longer exist and others have simply been denied access to them. I presume this is the same “unforeseen difficulty” which the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, mentioned Dr Walsh was experiencing in explaining the delay in the submission of her report? I accept that records get lost over the passage of time, in isolated instances but when it seems to be systemic my antenna goes up.

I heard from one woman that her doctor had requested a hospital in Dublin to carry out an X-ray to establish whether symphysiotomy had been performed on her. To establish or indeed rule out symphysiotomy the doctor had referred the woman to the hospital for a stand-up X-ray, specifically. The hospital refused to carry out the X-ray in this manner. The Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, spoke about addressing the legacy of the past. What I have just outlined happened last week, not in the past, which makes me question whether the system is trying to protect itself.

Will the Minister of State send out a clear message today that it is totally and utterly unacceptable for the medical profession to frustrate in any way the right of these women to redress and remedy?

I would like to put on the record my full support for the setting aside of the statute bar to allow these women seek judicial redress. There is solid precedent in terms of this having been done in respect of clerical sex abuse.


Order of Business, 16 May 2012

My colleague, Senator Quinn, raised the matter of the missing children’s hotline, 116000, on the Order of Business yesterday. The theme of this year’s international missing children’s day, which is 25 May, is child abduction safety. Senators will be aware that 25 May will also mark the first anniversary of this Seanad. It would be fitting if the hotline could be in place and operational by that date. On 12 October last, the Seanad agreed an all-party, all-group motion calling for the missing children’s hotline to be brought fully into operation. Since then, ComReg has allocated the number in question to the service. I welcome the changed message that now directs anybody who rings 116000 to the Garda or to the ISPCC Childline. I note that the number cannot be telephoned from an Oireachtas handset. Hopefully, we will not have to report it. I will follow that issue up with the Oireachtas authorities. The number has been allocated but the service is not yet in operation. Similar hotlines in other EU member states take calls from and offer support to anyone concerned about a missing child, including parents and children. They take calls regarding different types of child disappearance, including runaways, parental abductions, missing unaccompanied migrant minors, criminal abductions and children who are lost, injured or otherwise missing.

The EU has been asking Ireland for five years to put this hotline in place. It is not too much to ask for the Government to ensure it is fully operational by 25 May next. Will the Deputy Leader ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to come before this House at the earliest opportunity to confirm that the hotline will be operational by 25 May? If the hotline will not be up and running by that date, will the Deputy Leader ask the Minister the reason for such a delay? I suggest that the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, should outline the plans of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to publicise and promote the missing children’s hotline so that Ireland is not a missing link in child abduction cases. We need to ensure that every child in Ireland, including those who might be going away over the summer, knows this number. They should be made aware that if they are in another EU member state, they can ring the number and talk to someone who can help them.